The green skinned old woman with warty nose and black pointy hat is ridding a broom across the sky cackling evilly. Watch out! It’s the witch! It’s an image that often comes out on Halloween festooning the decorations in silhouette, little figurines of witches, sometimes flatten on front doors, or even trees. But what does this image represent and why do so many self proclaimed witches get offended by this image? Every year, around Halloween someone raises a stink about the image of the witch and ends up in the media. And then the myth making begins again.
Out comes the claims that witchcraft is older than Christianity, that the witch trials killed nine million witches, that Christianity invented the evil witch as a way to persecute the peaceful witches. All of which is folklore based on bad historical research and repeated so much that many Pagans believe it to be true. The one failing the Pagan religious movement has is a lack of historical understanding and not requiring acclaimed authors to maintain historical accuracy and scholarship.
A woman who is Being In Total Control of Herself.
I understand the power of words and how powerful the reclamation of a word can be. The best example I feel is with the word ‘bitch’ as reclaimed by the Feminists. A bitch was once viewed as a woman who was bold, loud, argumentative, nagging, and controlling. All those traits are masculine in nature and any woman displaying those traits ran the risk of being labeled a bitch. With the feminist movement, and the fight for social equality in the home, workplace and politics; woman who chose career over home have been labeled a bitch. As such the label is inaccurate and thus the reclamation began.
But the reclamation of ‘witch’ wasn’t in response to changing social conditions. Instead a group decided to become witches as they conceived them. From that group, a split occurred as they grew. One kept ‘witch’ and ‘witchcraft’ and the other became ‘Wiccan’ and ‘Wicca.’ That is just a super short blurb on the history of Gardernian Wicca. It’s effects on Modern Paganism has been huge.
I like the Halloween witch. I view her as a mythological creature, an archetype of the darker aspects of the feminine nature. She is the dark image of the Crone. I value the lessons that she can teach; old people are often crabby, beauty is only skin deep, actions speak louder than words, that the pursuit of power often leads to a bad ending, what looks too good to be true often is.
I don’t understand the offence that modern witches feel with the image of the Halloween witch. It’s one thing to claim that one isn’t evil and bad. But it’s another thing to take on an image and turn it on it’s head and to do so without any understanding of that image and it’s role within mythology. It’s akin to taking the image of the troll and forcing everyone to accept that trolls are good, nice bridge keepers who only ask for reasonable payment for crossing. Therein lies the mystery.
Modern witches are magic practitioners and that is the only similarity they have with the archetypical witch. Despite the views of the Only One God religions that all magic is evil and therefore any who practice magic is evil and the tendency to label magic users as witches, I do not feel that reclaiming the ‘witch’ is the proper way to go about carving acceptance in the mainstream mindset. Education is a better tool, not picking up a club and beating everyone in the head with it.
The witch belongs in mythology, not reality. Around the world there has been increased reports of witchcraft, abusing women and children for things that are beyond their control. The idea that the witch is real is having negative consequences. One that I wonder if the reclamation of the word had caused. It’s easy enough to do a web search and see that there are people who do claim to be a witch and that they practice magic.
I practice magic, but I don’t claim to be a witch. The negative stereotypes don’t bother me because I never accepted the reclamation of the word ‘witch.’ I understand the power gained from such reclamation but I feel the stereotype is useful and therefore should not be erased. The whole myth of the witch grew out of the the Middle Ages and the Inquisition and it’s to the level of the boogeyman. These mythological creatures play an important part in myth making and in human psychology. What better represents the darker side of humanity; the power grasping, backstabbing, selfish, black hearted, sneaky, evil intentions like the image of the witch?
But that image is not what modern Pagans are or strive to be. We need a different a label for those who practice magic.
Don’t forget… Have a Happy Halloween and a Blessed Samhain!!